Educators Smithsonian Education
The Wright Brothers
Lesson Plan
Preparation - Background on Virginian-Pilot Story - Activity Steps - Assesment and Enrichment

Group A: Diary

Orville Wright’s diary, December 17, 1903

When we got up a wind of between 20 and 25 miles was blowing from the north.  We got the machine out early and put out the signal for the men at the station.  Before we were quite ready, John T. Daniels, W.S. Dough, A.D. Etheridge, W.C. Brinkley of Manteo, and Johnny Moore of Nags Head arrived.  After running the engine and propellers a few minutes to get them in working order, I got on the machine at 10:35 for the first trial.  The wind was blowing a little over . . . 27 miles. . . . On slipping the rope the machine started off increasing in speed to probably 7 or 8 miles. . . . Mr. Daniels took a picture just as it left the tracks.  I found the control of the front rudder quite difficult. . . .  As a result the machine would rise suddenly to about 10 ft. and then as suddenly, on turning the rudder, dart for the ground.  A sudden dart when out about 100 feet from the end of the tracks ended the flight.  Time about 12 seconds (not known exactly as watch was not promptly stopped.) . . .

After repairs, at 20 min. after 11 o’clock Will made the second trial.  The course was about like mine, up and down but a little longer over the ground though about the same in time.  Dist. not measured but about 175 ft. . . .

At about 20 minutes till 12 o’clock I made the third trial.  When out about the same distance as Will’s, I met with a strong gust from the left which raised the left wing and sidled the machine off to the right in a lively manner.  I immediately turned the rudder to bring the machine down and then worked the [wing-warping] control.  Much to our surprise, on reaching the ground the left wing struck first, showing the lateral control of this machine much more effective than on any of our former ones.  At the time of its sidling it had raised to a height of probably 12 to 14 feet.

At just 12 o’clock Will started on the fourth and last trip.  The machine started off with its ups and downs as it had before, but by the time he had gone over three or four hundred feet he had he had it under much better control, and was traveling on a fairly even course.  It proceeded in this manner till it reached a small hummock out about 800 feet from the starting ways, when it began its pitching again and suddenly darted into the ground.  The front rudder frame was badly broken up, but the main frame suffered none at all.  The distance over the ground was 852 feet in 59 seconds. . . .

After removing the front rudder, we carried the machine back to camp.  We set the machine down a few feet west of the building, and while standing about discussing the last flight, a sudden gust of wind struck the machine and started to turn it over.  All rushed to stop it.  Will who was near one end ran to the front, but too late to do any good.  Mr. Daniels and myself seized spars at the rear, but to no purpose.  The machine gradually turned over on us.  Mr. Daniels, having had no experience in handling a machine of this kind, hung on to it from the inside, and as a result was knocked down and turned over and over with it as it went.  His escape was miraculous, as he was in with the engine and chains.  The engine legs were all broken off, the chain guides badly bent, a number of uprights, and nearly all the rear ends of the ribs were broken.  One spar only was broken.

After dinner we went to Kitty Hawk to send off telegram to M.W. [Milton Wright, their father]. 

Required Materials

Graphic Organizer

Group A: Diary

Group B: Telegram

Group C: Letter

Group D: Interview

Group E: Magazine

Entire Class: Newspaper
Orville's diary

Orville's diary

Orville's diary, open to the entry for December 17, 1903

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